India: Madcap Transit


Today has been a transit day, mostly, but that’s not to say it hasn’t been silly fun. I got up at 10 and had eggs on toast for breakfast on the balcony and chatted to the Argentinian girls. Showered and dressed, and realised that the reason I’ve been having freezing cold showers for the past week is that the hot and cold taps have been put on the bloody wrong way around.

Dave woke up at 1pm, during which time I’d got a bit more writing done in my room. I’d have sat on the balcony but Rod was out there and I couldn’t be arsed with his lacklustre storytelling and odd brand of not-quite-racist-but-pretty-fucking-close observations of India society.

Dan and I headed out with the Delhi guys, Aman and Rishar, to visit the city palace of Jaipur. I’ve only been in India one week today and I’ve seen enough palaces to last me a lifetime. My number of palaces seen in my lifetime has in one week shot up from, like, maybe three to about fifteen.

The guys were brilliant, engineering students in Jaipur for a fun weekend, and they seemed as buzzing to show around real English guys we were to be shown around by them. They told us about the gods Shiva and Ganesh, and they told us that the name ‘Dave’ means ‘god of gods’ in Hindi. I asked what Dan means and they said it doesn’t mean anything. Fine, whatever.

We ate thali at a local café after, splitting a couple of platters between the four of us. The café was inside but the food was prepared in the street, and I was a little dubious, but didn’t want to offend the Delhi dudes by refusing to eat. So I just scoffed the lot and quietly prayed to Shiva that I didn’t explode out of both ends in the next couple of hours.

Dave and the Delhi mafia were heading up to Amer Fort to go hiking, but it was searing heat and I was supposed to be leaving for Pushkar that evening, so we split up again – so I only had the one day and night with Dave. We hugged and wished each other luck, and I hopped in a tuk tuk back to the hostel to grab my bags.  That massive bastard Rod was on the balcony when I got back, and he talked at me for a while, then I asked the guy on reception to call me a taxi to the bus station. I said goodbye to Connor and Adam and the Argentinians, and went outside the hostel gate to wait. Then my taxi pulled up and it was a fucking motorbike.

I was handed a helmet and climb on, with my enormous rucksack on one shoulder and my backpack on the other, leaving no hands free to hang on. And he whizzed away into the boisterous traffic of Jaipur. Riding motorbikes is strange; you easily balance, no matter how much of a clumsy oaf you are, however the whole time I am acutely aware that if I fall off I will die in a most spectacular fashion. I’m that weird middle ground of reckless where I will never refuse to get on a motorcycle, in fact I will giddily do it, but I will spend the duration of the journey quietly fearing for my life.

I was dropped at the bus station and wandered through the compound, listening out for the bus drivers yelling out their destinations – no signs, you just listen for the shouts. I heard someone yodelling the word ‘Ajmer’, and climbed aboard. I got a window seat on the rickety old bus and relaxed for a couple of hours as we cruised down the motorway. People got on and off at completely arbitrary locations; a petrol station, a toll booth, a sparse stretch of desert. Everything is so chilled here; people just do what the hell they want.

I arrived in Ajmer just after 7pm and got a local bus a half hour to Pushkar, which cost the princely sum of 16 cents. The bus was absolutely rammed with no AC; about 100 people on a single decker. A shepherd got on board with a giant bundle of sheep’s wool that was stinky as hell. A few different people chatted to me – everybody wants to know where you’re from, where you’re going to, how long you’ve been in India, where you’ve travelled, and whether you like the country. It’s very sweet.

I arrived in Pushkar at 7.30pm and refused the nattering tuk tuk drivers that accost all western tourists when they disembark. I wandered the town with my bags and asked a tourist girl to borrow her phone so I could check how far my hostel was. Turns out it was only a kilometre away, and I got a tuk tuk there for 80 rupees. The Madpackers Hostel in Pushkar is fucking gorgeous. It’s an old palace, and I stumbled through the foyer in awe as the Mumbai dude on reception, Ankur, checked me in. The hostel is arched doorways and tiled floors, balconies galore, hanging vines, and every surface is painted in brilliant colours depicting India mythology.

Ankur showed me to my room, and lo and behold, in the same dorm I found there nestled Jonas and James, the Danish and New Zealand dudes from Agra. It was great to see them again after we split up, but alas: they had both been taken ill. Jonas was the worst of the pair, curled up in bed with food poisoning. I left them to lie there shivering, and went out on the balcony, where Ankur informed me that Pushkar is a dry town: boozeless. I screamed internally for a few minutes, but relaxed when I found everybody getting high on the balcony.

A week in India, and I’m doing more bloody drugs than Berlin. This was meant to be a detox. Goodness me.

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